The Story Behind: "Killing in The Name" by Rage Against the Machine

in music •  2 years ago

Killing in The Name is a song by American rap/rock band Rage Against the Machine. It was released as a lead single from their self-titled debut album, which was released in November 1992. The song reached number 25 in UK and made a comeback in 2009, when it reached Christmas number one in UK.  


The band had started in Orange County, California in 1991 by frontman Zack de la Rocha, whom was a son of a political artist and grandson of a Mexican revolutionary and by guitarist Tom Morello, that had parents whom were part of a resistance againts civil authority.   

The song started to get written, when an important moment happened in American history. CCTV captured footage of four LAPD officers beating up a black motorist Rodney King, which enraged the nation after the footage had been released across all the news channels in the country.   

The single talks about police brutality and racism, linked with the event that happened that year. The song also notes that some members of the US police force are members of the Ku Klux Klan seen in: »Some of those that work forces are the same that burn crosses«. The songs lyrics were especially notorious for the final verse in the song when de la Rocha screams ‘Fuck you! I won’t do what you tell me!’ several times and ends it with »Motherfucker!«

The Riff

The classic riff by Morello was written when he was playing bass in a guitar lesson and was teaching him about the drop-D tuning, when after noodling found a cool riff, which led him to stop the lesson to quickly record the riff. Morello brought the recording to the band practice later that day, where the band worked out one of the first songs they had ever written, using the new riff.  


The band initially didn't want to release the song as a single, but were later convinced by Michael Goldstone, whom worked at the record company and agreed with the message that the band was trying to convey.   

The band was very surpised that the record company wanted to make the song a single in which de la Rocha says »fuck« more than 15 times, but went with it anyway. The song was almost changed by the company, when they told the band to make it shorter, but the band told the record company to »fuck themselves« and that they are not changing the song in any way, which was exactly what happened. Upon the release the song was radio banned across almost all US stations, but saw radio play in Europe as a clean version without swearing.  

The Music Video

The music video had a very tight budget, leaving the band to leave the production of the video to Peter Gideon, whom was a guitar student of Tom Morello and had a camera. He filmed the band peforming the song in small venues. It was released in December 1992 and was shown uncensored on the European MTV but didn't see play on the American MTV because of the lyrics.  

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This is an all time favourite of mine. Thanks for filling me in on the story behind it, totally amazing.


Hey thanks for reading!

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